Amazónico Madrid redefined the restaurant scene and quickly became the place to see and be seen.
Frequented by footballers and the rest of Madrid’s social elite, the restaurant was known for its high-quality food and exceptional service, as well as being the best looking place in town. Wall to wall greenery, with some of the jungle spilling over onto leather banquettes and footstools by the bar, it was gaudy but boy, it was fun.
Amazónico London opened in 2019, followed quickly by the Dubai restaurant a few weeks later, explains the wonderfully knowledgeable and laid-back Giulio, assistant manager as he navigates through the restaurant. I immediately notice one big difference between this and the Madrid original, the sheer cavernous size of the room.
As you walk in, there is a bar area with booths facing an open kitchen full of spit roasting pineapples. You then turn right where the restaurant opens up with a few levels revealing a sushi bar, a bigger area with lots of tables and a little platformed part where the live band are playing a particularly spiky version of “Girl from Ipanema”. Everywhere you look the ornate details jump out at you, whether that be the hidden door for the toilets subtly placed in between walled wine fridges, a sushi bar that looks like an aquarium, or the dark green jumpsuits that the female staff are all wearing. It’s a nice touch.
The menu swings wildly between the various countries and cuisines that touch the Amazon river – it starts with a salad and veg section, followed by raw, then bites, wok, fish and grill. It’s extensive, and there’s a lot to get through. We try a Aguachile (Mexican stone bass ceviche) with a zingy avocado and jalapeno cream. It’s one of our favourites of the night with its light, bright flavours and fresh-off-the-boat firm fish.
Our appetites whetted and a strong urge for seafood, we order 6 oysters served with different dressings of tomatillo, pineapple chimichurri and ponzu. Our favourite with the (French) oysters is the pineapple chimichurri with seeds of red passionfruit where the pineapple has been chargrilled bringing an extra dimension of flavour. The Carabinero prawns, at £33 for two are impressive. The scarlet red prawns are bigger than the length of my hand and have been grilled but not overcooked, the flesh melting.
As the live band play “Mas que nada” and my feet start tapping, the guacamole with sea urchin pops up on our table. The sea urchin always brings a nice sea-salty umami freshness to dishes that I love. The guacamole is prepared at the table and served with fried mashed plantain, much like miniature versions of Cuban tostones. I almost ask for a second portion of just these when the frogs legs arrive, punctuated by a spicy mango dressing. Frogs legs when cooked poorly can be quite tough to eat, but these are soft and fall off the bone – I would have liked a bit more punch to the mango dressing though.
Moving onto some meat, the entraña arrives. This is a skirt steak marinated generously with chimichurri and served on a candle-lit hotplate. Surprisingly, the real stars here are the side dishes, a Venezuelan mashed corn cake and a simple-sounding broccoli and carrots with a dusting of unrefined cane sugar. The depth of flavours was remarkable. Yet another memorable side is the grilled cabbage with kumquats and garlic cream, where the cabbage was delightfully firm and the addition of kumquats added an exotic slightly sweet touch.
Somehow, we made space for dessert. If I see dulce de leche on a menu, something hits a buzzer in my subconscious and I *must* order it. Put it in a cheesecake and it’s like they knew I was coming. Here, a wonderfully gooey cheesecake is placed alongside a soft hazelnut financier and a calamansi jelly – £13 may be steep for a pudding, but it’s worth it. Chargrilled pineapple (rotisserie grilled) features again on the dessert menu, this time with more of that corn cake and a coconut sorbet. The caramelised sweetness of the pineapple works well with the delicate coconut and texture of the corn.
It’s worth adding that Amazónico also has a very good sushi menu, of which the nigiris are a highlight including a salmon nigiri served part-grilled with toasted almonds for texture.
I realise I haven’t touched on the drinks. It’s somewhat intentional. The bar menu here is perfectly serviceable for those of you with a penchant for cocktails that err on the sweeter side of things, and I feel a trip here would not be complete without the signature Peacock Spritz (think fruity rum punch) served in a not-so-subtle clay peacock. For those of you that prefer the less sweet cocktails, the mixologists at Amazónico are very, very capable. A bone dry gin martini with a double twist was perfect, but the off menu mezcal margaritas are a showstopper.
Walking out of the rainforest, I see the glitz of Berkeley Square and realise I have left the jungle of the Amazon behind and landed back in Mayfair. Amazónico is truly a trip worth taking.
To discover more and book, visit: amazonicorestaurant.com/london
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